Paranormal Love Stories
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In Our Love Stories Series
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a celebration of Love by Victoria Pitt.
Last night's sunset held me spellbound. The fading sun shone making frothy pink clouds above the opposing mountains and crowned them to perfection. I climbed the "Widow's Walk" that rises three stories above the lawn and sat quietly surveying a full circle of vision. To the North and to the West there was deep orange and grey strips of cloud.
I thought of the many sunsets so similar I had seen in England, my adopted country. I am Canadian by more than seven generations except for one Grandfather who was born in Hampshire, England. It was this Grandfather that caused me to go back to Britain and search for those foreign roots. I wanted to know how much of myself I could attribute to him. I was deprived of knowing him well by a family separation and rift. He came home to die when I was a married woman of nineteen. I barely knew him. He was the last son of a dying breed of gamekeepers. He had been a career British Army man. He was a stranger. Years and years later when I was free and restless, an ancient homing instinct drove me to journey to England in search of healing and my roots. I needed to see the land of my Grandfather's birth and to finally understand him. In doing so I found myself as well.
I started in Aldershot where he had been recruited before being sent to Africa for the Boer War. I had in my possession his book of animal management for that campaign. It contained fold out plates of grasses and forage that could be ingested by camels, donkeys and horses. There was great detail of management of those animals. I wondered if it was from him that my intense love of horses had come? In Portsmouth Hall of Records I found my Great Grandparents' marriage record and my Grandfather's record of birth. Not without a lot of footwork and a visit to St Andrew's Cathedral in that city I finally got confirmation of the existence of the church where my 17 year old Great Grandmother (daughter of a gamekeeper) had married her 23 year old husband (gamekeeper, and son of a gamekeeper). I stood at the original altar in front of the huge original stained glass window in St. John The Baptist Church in Purbrook, Hampshire.
With the help of the vicar it was the exact spot they would have stood to be married. I wondered if the sun had shone on her face through the window on that October day in 1873. I thought of Chris De Burgh's song:
" In a Country Churchyard"
"A lovely girl is coming down
To give her hand upon her wedding day
Dressed in simple white
And wearing flowers in her hair,"
I was overcome with strange tearful emotions. I knew what they didn't that wedding day. My Great Grandfather would die of some strange ailment when he was thirty four and leave my Great Grandmother, Caroline, a widow with four children when she was 28 years of age.
My Great Grandfather was buried somewhere in Kent. My Great Grandmother in Hampshire. One of their sons is buried in Canada.
I did not know that this would be the first of four journeys to England in search of a past, a present and a future. History has always held my interest whether it was mine or that belonging to another country. Wandering in England always meant museums, cathedrals, castles and any other open historic building. I was blessed with an insatiable curiosity. I spent days walking along the Thames in Windsor and haunting a castle that held strange familiarities for me. I poured for hours over Queen Victoria's watercolours on display that month. Paintings of the royal family together, individual children, the castle. I felt intensely her loss of Albert. Something in this country always brought emotions to the surface.
It was there on a shaded path that I encountered my first pair of Clumbers. I remembered them from childhood books. I remembered a promise I had made myself when I was five. "When I am big I will have a Clumber!" The man kindly let me play with them, I think he was amazed that this foreign lady knew what they were.
I stayed at Wells in Somerset and explored the beautiful cathedral with its example of fine gothic architecture and scissor arches. I sat at the back of the cathedral and listened to the Christmas Carols sung by the music school choir. I would be home for Christmas, where ever home was? It was this curiosity on my second journey which changed my life and my future. Museums never escape my attention. It was the final two weeks of another two month sojourn in England.
I had come to Norfolk with new friends met while taking some courses in Stansted at the Arthur Findlay College. They worked through the day and I as usual wandered. I had walked the mile into town and now stood at the museum door. Something like a chill or a thrill ran through me. "If you open this door your life will change." I remember trembling as I opened the door. The man behind the desk was tall and slim with hazel eyes, dark hair greying at the temples and I knew I was in trouble. That same voice said, "He is single." That voice was definitely causing problems. Unfortunately it was a small museum and I could not hang around forever. My second trip back he asked me to dinner. We spent the last part of my holiday together. Suddenly love comes in and finds me on open ground nowhere to hide nowhere to run, there is no turning back, and a journey has just begun.
The journey home was reflective. Another time and another place this could have worked.
Two months later I received a letter, "Are you sitting down? I am coming to Canada!" We laughed, as it was early February when he arrived, "I think I am the only tourist in Canada!" I followed him back to England in April and stayed through August. I returned in December for my first Christmas in England. I stayed until the 12th of May 1998. We did not speak of a future. We spoke of today. The final six weeks there was a distancing that neither of us understood.
We parted at Heathrow. I could barely speak. "You are not coming back to Canada are you?" It was not a question but my statement. He kissed me and said "Probably not!" That was the end, and a long tearful flight home. So it was in this state and the second day home to Canada I met Spotted Grey Owl. I have survived all this. Casey and I had acquired another cocker, then a bigger place. I told myself I was mending. But in my heart I knew I wasn't even close.
"When I am big I will have a Clumber." I had promised myself. The Clumber had been ordered and born. Another Cocker had been ordered and been born. Life seemed to be going my way. Painful reminders of England had been put away There were letters from England, but they only increased the ache. I was trying to move on. Then the E-mail started. More painful reminders of happy times. I could not understand how anybody could be so insensitive of my unstated pain. He constantly reminded me of mutual interests and happy times. That was it! It had to come to an end! I wrote the letter. In a column that I wrote a while ago I said I had been given a gift so fragile and precious that I just wanted to hold it to my heart for fear it would fly away. My Englishman is coming to Canada for good and forever. "Alan, I have five dogs." "I'm not bothered, can I have a cat?" The first time he phoned, he asked to speak to Casey. I held the phone to her ear. I do not know what was said. I do know he is bringing tennis balls.
The journey back to the past has given me a future. I count the days to his arrival. I think my Grandfather would be pleased. Have a day everybody. Victoria Pitt and the merry band of Cockers. Read Solquesto, more in Victoria's celebration of Love...
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